From the moment the first burger shop opened along one of its four streets, Eight Corners has been the traditional gathering spot for teenagers in Brookfield. Few people who grow up in the village can avoid spending at least some time dodging its traffic, hanging out with friends along its benches and sidewalks, or becoming a regular at one of its ever-changing eateries.
For at least one generation of Brookfield youth, the time they spent at Eight Corners in the 1960s was so important to them that for the past 28 years they’ve been coming together about every five years to celebrate their past. Their most recent reunion, their sixth, was held last month at Brunetti’s Restaurant in Brookfield.
“All of our lives crossed at Eight Corners,” Catherine Colgrass Edwards, the organizer of the reunions, said. “It brought us together and kept us together.”
Edwards, now a village trustee, said more than 100 people attended the event, with some traveling from as far away as California or Texas. All of them met and became friends at Eight Corners, she said, at a time when the area was littered with burger shops and other teen-oriented hangouts.
At any one time, she said, a crowd of up to 30 teenagers at the circle would not have been rare. For most, it was the place to be.
“I never left home without going to Eight Corners,” Danny Hull, who later became a Brookfield police officer, said. “It started out as just a hangout for kids from RB, but eventually people from all different schools started showing up. I guess our reputation preceded us.”
That reputation was occasionally not the best one?”they were known as “greasers,” Edwards said, and sometimes she heard of parents warning their children to stay away from the crowds at Eight Corners.
“But we never really did anything wrong,” Hull asserted. “Maybe we smoked a few cigarettes, but nothing serious.”
The reunions began in 1978, when Edwards decided to throw a small party for old high school friends and suddenly saw it explode into a big event.
“Before I knew it, I had 55 people in my parents’ house,” she said.
After that, she started holding them in the American Legion Hall in Brookfield. This was the first year the party was held at Brunetti’s.
The night provided an opportunity not just to catch up, but also to look back and remember the old stories from their days at Eight Corners. For Donna Ribulotta, one of her favorite memories is the night she and her friends decided to reenact scenes from “West Side Story” in the S.E. Gross School playground.
“There were eight or 12 of us, and we had just come from seeing the movie,” she said. “So we thought, ‘Why not?'”
Others remember somewhat more mischievous times. Hull recounted a contest he and his friends used to play on the bus going into LaGrange.
“We’d get a group together and everyone would throw in about two dollars,” he said. “Then we’d take turns getting on the bus without paying the fare. The pool went to whoever could ride without paying for the longest.”
For most, it was the opportunity to share memories like these that brought them to the reunion. Although it has been almost 40 years since their days on the Circle, many said the bonds they forged there are still as strong as ever.
“These are the best friends you could ever have,” Ken Kovack said. “I’ve known people from grammar school for 40 years, and we can go 10 or 15 years without seeing each other and then start right back up from where we left off. It’s a bond you never forget.”